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New Study Supports Abstinence Education

John on February 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm

It’s a decent sized study and the results are promising:

Jemmott and his colleagues enrolled 662 African American students in grades 6 and 7, ranging in age from 10 to 15, from four public middle schools in urban, low-income communities.

The students were randomly assigned to one of five sex-education programs: an eight-hour abstinence-only program; an eight-hour safe-sex program; an eight-hour or a 12-hour comprehensive program that included information on abstinence and contraception use; or an eight-hour health promotion program that discussed health-related issues, such as good dietary practices and exercise habits, but didn’t bring up sexual health — this was the control group.

The students were followed up periodically with questionnaires about their sexual activity, with the final survey taking place two years later. About 84 percent of the initial participants completed the final follow-up.

Results showed that while 48.5 percent of students in the health-promotion group had sex for the first time during the study period, only 33.5 percent of those in the abstinence-only group did so.

The big caveat is that all of this was self-reported behavior. So there may be some looseness in these numbers. Also, the researchers are saying their work shouldn’t be used to change policy until it is replicated. I guess that’s good scientific practice but the results are what they are. Abstinence ed can be supported in the interim.

While we’re on the topic, Get Religion has an interesting analysis of the coverage of the study. Surprise, the LA Times isn’t pleased about it.

I think what I find most enlightening about the whole thing is that 50% of the control group of 6-7th graders (the AP says most were 12, but the range was 10-15) became sexually active. Does it surprise no one that half of black 12-13 year olds are having sex? This seems like a really serious problem. If abstinence ed can cut that rate by 1/3, then we shouldn’t wait to employ it.

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